Women with a Deadline

The Revolution in Print

Female journalists were among the first to record, comment on, and publicize the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. Peter Zenger was arrested for libel in 1734, when his paper, the New York Weekly Journal, published multiple articles criticizing the Royal Governor of New York. His wife, Anna Maulin Zenger, then assumed control over his publication. Zenger was defended by Andrew Hamilton, uncle of founding father Alexander Hamilton. While in prison, Zenger gave his wife printing instructions during their visits. She became the publisher when he died in 1746. The well-publicized Zenger case was a landmark in the struggle for freedom of the press in the final decades under British rule and the early years of the Republic. Zenger's case along with other efforts prompted the founders to emphasize the right to freedom of the press in the Constitution's First Amendment.

As the Revolution loomed, women publishers came down on both sides of the debate. Anne Green's Maryland Gazette championed the rebels' cause, publishing John Dickinson's anti-British Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1768). In contrast, Boston newspaperwoman Margaret Green Draper publicly supported the British monarchy in her Boston News-Letter. Her paper garnered enough readers that she drove six competitors out of business -- but when the British army retreated from Boston, Draper had to flee to Canada.

 


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